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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Digital Tools: Moral Decision Making in Mormondom #5

(This is an occasional series that discusses normative questions. Too often we do not consider the inferences and implications of what we do. In short, we fail to realize when a moral decision is necessary. This occasional series will do so. Readers are encouraged to pose their own questions and views in the comment forum.)

I cover a lot of digital Church issues. I admit, it is a particular soap box of mine. Why shouldn't it be? The Church has designed some phenomenal digital tools that members are not using.

Consider the following points:

- Church members who would never refuse implementing new hard-copy procedures seem to feel that digital tools are optional and can be safely ignored. How is this? If the Church develops a tool and instructs us to make the best use of it we can does it matter what media it is contained on?

- Digital tools are not the future, they are the present AND the future. The Internet has been around since 1991. Local unit web sites have been around since at least 2004. We have generations coming of age that have never known life without the digital component. Stop living in the past.

- A common argument is that not everyone has access to computers or the Internet. This argument is so flawed I can hardly believe people still proffer it. Some people don't have telephones, should we not use telephones just because everyone doesn't have them? Should we wait until everyone in the world has computers before we make use of digital tools? This is nonsense. Digital tools can be an added component to the existing system. Frankly, they would take less time and make the present paper system work better. Isn't that reason enough for using them?

- The paper system augmented with snail mail and telephones has always been inadequate but it was all we had. Haven't we all longed for a system that had the potential for being all-inclusive, accurate and timely? We have one now. Why isn't it being better used?

- Should you hamper the Church's operations just because you are stubbornly non-digital? I think we have a moral duty to make use of every tool the Church develops whether we personally like it or not. If the Church has spent this much money and this many work hours developing it we must consider it important.

- We've all assumed that taking the gospel to the world involved physical missionaries traipsing over physical land. I don't think Heavenly Father has ever stipulated that. What if he intends world wide gospel sharing to be digital? If you haven't considered this then Satan certainly has you duped.

- This brings up something that should be obvious but apparently isn't. If you are hindering the gospel message then you are part of Satan's minions. If you are preventing the gospel or full gospel fellowship from being extended to everyone you need to reassess your actions.

- No one would seriously argue that people should continue using the hard-copy paper system to do family history/genealogy work since FamilySearch.org exists.  Similarly, we should not continue relying on the hard-copy paper system when the Local Unit Web Sites (LUWS) exist.


  1. As somebody who's been using those websites for years, I think I can see why they've never been adopted.

    1) They are incredibly, horrifically, badly, designed. Not only are the bad from an asthetic standpoint, they are barely useable, particularly for first-time members.

    2) The sites are rarely kept up because the leadership are generally seeing it as just one more thing they have to do in an already overwhelming calling. Additionally, they are usually not the most tech-literate, so they don't know how to train others to keep these things up.

    3) The barrier-to-entry of having to obtain your membership record number is annoying enough to keep most members from doing it. I know, it's pure laziness, but there you have it.

    It seems to me that the church has never taken these websites serious, and that when they do, it'll become HIGHLY adopted.

  2. My thanks to the above poster. I agree with much of what was said.

    Something else that puzzles me is why local church leaders let inaccurate/outdated information sit on the web site, sometimes for years, but they would never allow such information to persist on Sacrament bulletins, for example.

    I think these sorts of missteps are training people to ignore and/or mistrust digital tools. This could affect the web sites success both now and in the future.

  3. Yeah, it's pretty pathetic.

    I basically decided to take charge of the problem, created a facebook group (since most of my ward members use that far more often than anything else, even Email). I didn't get assigned or called, but even the Bishop now asks me to put stuff on there, so it's effectiveness has become apparent. It's a pretty chewing gum and duct tape approach, but it works.

  4. Thanks for your comment Gdub. Members have a lot of leeway with their own efforts but if your local Church leaders were to set up a Facebook page it would be directly violating Church policy. I suspect that asking you to post information violates policy too. See the following letters.

    2001 letter
    2004 letter

    However, what you are doing PROVES that digital tools work since even the Bishop has acknowledged its effectiveness by asking you to put information on it.

    Since the Church has numerous Facebook pages of its own: http://ldsmediatalk.com/official-lds-church-pages-on-facebook/ obviously this suggests they see the value of it. I don't see unique content on Facebook Though. It always seems to be postings directing people to web resources.

    But, it is really to your credit that you took the initiative in diagnosing the problem and crafted an effective solution in getting information out to people in the ward. Kudos!

    Thanks for your comment.